Max Muncy may not win many popularity contests among the analytics set, and just like most young players of this generation, he isn't afraid to use advanced data to help his game, but he thinks he and his contemporaries can't help but look at some of the old-fangled numbers.
It's hard to blame him. It's what they flash on the big scoreboard when a hitter is up, there for all to see. As his first full season was coming to a close, he saw numbers that didn't make him happy, regardless of what the underlying data might have been telling him about contact rates or hard-hit percentages.
"Coming out of high school was kind of a tough experience," said Muncy, currently the A's No. 7 prospect and their first-round pick out of Thousand Oaks High School in California in 2021. "Right at the start, I had a decent amount of homers, but average is something you always look at.
"I know the game has changed in that aspect. But for a player, you still look up there and want to see yourself with a higher average."
Muncy did indeed hit 19 home runs in his first full season in 2022, but he also finished with a .229 average. The infielder went through a lot of trial and error, trying to find what worked best for him. He started to find a little bit of a groove when he went back to High-A Lansing -- slashing .255/.327/.386 in 72 games with the Lugnuts -- but really hit his stride when he got moved up to Double-A Midland, where he hit .302/.387/.446 and attributes that to bringing a more locked-in swing and approach to the next level. Muncy also thought his connection with the RockHounds manager was a big reason why his performance improved.
"A big help to me was going to play for Bobby Crosby," Muncy said. "I think that was huge for me. Playing under Crosby, that's kind of when it clicked offensively. Just hearing what he had to say and getting insight from him and seeing what he saw in my swing. That kind of helped put it together for me. At the end of the year, that was a little boost I needed, some advice from him."
He undoubtedly also got advice from Crosby about coming to the Arizona Fall League since the former big leaguer managed the Mesa Solar Sox in 2022. Muncy could also see the impact the league could have just by looking at last year's A's contingent. Lawrence Butler and Zack Gelof both played in the AFL in 2022 and went on to make big contributions in Oakland this season.
"You always have to be where you are. When I'm in Midland, you have to be comfortable where you're at," Muncy said. "But definitely seeing some guys that you played with ... I roomed with Gelof right when we got drafted, so to see him actually make it, it does make it a little more real for you. Seeing people you know make it, seeing that it's a real possibility. I'm definitely excited to see what happens next year and I'm hoping that when the time comes, I can help the team in any way I can."
A's hitters in the Fall League
Brett Harris, 3B (No. 10): An intriguing senior sign from the 2021 Draft, Harris had a solid 2023 campaign, making it up to Triple-A in the process. He uses a contact-first, inside-out approach, and at times good fastballs were challenging him on the inner part of the plate. The A's sent him to the AFL to work on making that adjustment against good velocity.
Lazaro Armenteros, OF: Once a highly regarded international prospect who got $3 million to sign with the A's in July 2016, Armenteros could become a Minor League free agent this offseason if he isn't added to the 40-man roster. His time with Mesa gives the organization a little extra time to see him against good competition, but it's looking like it he will hit free agency. It's still an odd profile, with huge swing-and-miss (33.3 percent K rate), but he draws a ton of walks (14.9 percent), hit 20 homers and had a 134 wRC+ in 2023.
A's pitchers in the Fall League
Jack Perkins, RHP (No. 19): Perkins has a starter mix, with a good VAA fastball from a low slot, a decent slider and a changeup that can be plus, though he needs to throw it more. He'll pitch out of the bullpen to take on another dozen or so innings in the Fall League while working on refining his repertoire.
Royber Salinas, RHP (No. 24): Salinas was able to amass just 71 2/3 innings, mostly with Double-A Midland, this year, his first in the organization since coming via the Sean Murphy deal with the Braves, because of a right forearm strain. His fastball and slider miss bats (11.7 K/9 rate in 2023), but he needs more innings and to refine his command with Mesa.
Stevie Emanuels, RHP: Emanuels moved back to the bullpen full-time in 2023, where he primarily pitched at the University of Washington, and had some success despite missing the first two months of the season with elbow tendinitis. He made it to Double-A for the first time, finishing with a 2.04 ERA, .193 BAA and 12.9 K/9 rate.
Yunior Tur, RHP: Signed at 23 out of Cuba this past May, Tur managed to get a fair number of innings out of Single-A Stockton's bullpen during his debut. He was a late addition to the Mesa roster, and this should be a good test for him. The pure stuff is there, with a fastball up to 98 mph, a wipeout slider at times and a firm changeup he doesn't throw much. He needs to work on his command in and out of the strike zone.
Jack Weisenburger, RHP: A closer at Michigan, Weisenburger looked like he could be a quick mover up to the A's big league bullpen, but he missed most of 2022 and had Tommy John surgery. He did make it back to Double-A and performed well. He's already 26 and is making up for innings while vying for a spot on the 40-man roster. He comes right at hitters with his fastball-slider combination.